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CMAJ News Canada’s genetic heterogeneity an asset in cord blood banking Published at www.cmaj.ca on Jun. 10. W hen Kathleen O’Grady was pregnant with her first child, her Montréal, Que- bec, physician was very keen for her to donate her umbilical cord blood to Héma Québec’s public cord blood bank. The reason? O’Grady and her hus- band form a mixed-race couple — she is of Irish-French heritage while her husband is an Ismaili-Indian from East Africa. Worldwide there is a need for ethnic and racial diversity of banked cord blood for use in “regrowing” the blood of people, especially children, Photos.com who have undergone chemotherapy or suffer from some genetic diseases. In an effort to ensure “equitable ac- International blood agencies search registries worldwide to find matches for patients cess to transplantation,” the proposed needing transplants. national public cord blood bank would — as the Héma Québec bank is already doing — focus on collecting umbilical hospital, cord blood banking was never support the idea of a national public bank. cord blood that reflects the population’s mentioned. And when she made a few But private cord blood banking is genetic heterogeneity. Also targeted efforts on her own to find out about do- controversial. “Few pediatric transplant would be First Nations and people from nating publicly a second time, she surgeons endorse private cord blood other distinct ethnic clusterings, who couldn’t find any information. Hence banking in the absence of an identified are seriously underrepresented in bone her umbilical cord blood from that birth recipient, even for mixed-ethnicity chil- marrow donor registries. — so precious in Quebec — was dis- dren for whom finding a suitably Canada has moved slowly toward carded, like the overwhelming majority matched unrelated donor may be diffi- creating a public cord blood bank, but “I of all cord blood in Canada. cult” (Pediatrics 2009;123:1011-17) think that gives us an opportunity to set While physicians have for many In a policy statement, Canada’s stem up a thoughtful cord bank … to look at years c
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